November 07, 2006 GMT
Unconditional Love

I've been learning all sorts of new stuff - the day before yesterday I fitted and wired a new bilge pump and float valve, and yesterday I was initiated into the mysteries of the kind of stuff you need when refitting a boat, during a mega shopping expedition with Stuart. We've fitted a new loo and shower, lots of electrickery, a mega sound system with speakers inside and out, new navigation kit, all sorts of stuff.

This is all because Dave Liddell (old friend and ex-employer) invited me to spend a few days aboard his RTW-capable racing trimaran, moored at Port Aransas on the Texas Gulf (of Mexico) coast, a little north of Corpus Christi.

Pelican John has been teaching Stuart how to do celestial navigation (using a plastic sextant); Jeff and Tom fitted a new forestay; and we declare the day over by walking to Shorty's for a well-earned beer or three. The Old Dear is parked on the dock by the boat, and attracts greater attention. The boat is currently called 'Unconditional Love', but is being renamed 'Aransas', which means 'Lost Souls' in Indian.

This morning we went for a bit of a sail, which was brill with a two-metre swell and having to avoid large tankers and things. We were accompanied by schools of dolphins and flights of pelicans, all of whom hang around in the marina a lot as well, in the company of blue cranes and the marina cats. Whenever the shrimp boat next door comes back the boss pelican hops up to watch the unloading in the hope of a freebie, and when he flies off the cats have a go as well.

I'll be here a few more days as I'm waiting for my new bank card to arrive, and anyway I really can't miss the beltsander racing on Saturday night at The Gaff (where Vanessa makes excellent pizzas). In fact, Stuart and I are considering competing as David's flying back to London tomorrow and we can bunk off work a bit.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 09:27 PM GMT
Unconditional Love

I've been learning all sorts of new stuff - the day before yesterday I fitted and wired a new bilge pump and float valve, and yesterday I was initiated into the mysteries of the kind of stuff you need when refitting a boat, during a mega shopping expedition with Stuart. We've fitted a new loo and shower, lots of electrickery, a mega sound system with speakers inside and out, new navigation kit, all sorts of stuff.

This is all because Dave Liddell (old friend and ex-employer) invited me to spend a few days aboard his RTW-capable racing trimaran, moored at Port Aransas on the Texas Gulf (of Mexico) coast, a little north of Corpus Christi.

Pelican John has been teaching Stuart how to do celestial navigation (using a plastic sextant); Jeff and Tom fitted a new forestay; and we declare the day over by walking to Shorty's for a well-earned beer or three. The Old Dear is parked on the dock by the boat, and attracts greater attention. The boat is currently called 'Unconditional Love', but is being renamed 'Aransas', which means 'Lost Souls' in Indian.

This morning we went for a bit of a sail, which was brill with a two-metre swell and having to avoid large tankers and things. We were accompanied by schools of dolphins and flights of pelicans, all of whom hang around in the marina a lot as well, in the company of blue cranes and the marina cats. Whenever the shrimp boat next door comes back the boss pelican hops up to watch the unloading in the hope of a freebie, and when he flies off the cats have a go as well.

I'll be here a few more days as I'm waiting for my new bank card to arrive, and anyway I really can't miss the beltsander racing on Saturday night at The Gaff (where Vanessa makes excellent pizzas). In fact, Stuart and I are considering competing as David's flying back to London tomorrow and we can bunk off work a bit.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 09:30 PM GMT
November 13, 2006 GMT
Beltsander Racing

Unconditional Love' (aka 'Aransas') is a 37-foot ocean-going racing trimaran designed by Ian Farrier (http://www.f-boat.com).

In the last ten days I've learned an enormous amount about boats, and especially how they need to be prepared and how things should be done. I've previously sailed nothing bigger than a National 16, but just sailing a little way on one of these is fantastic. I've watched those sailing programmes on the telly (Ellen McArthur should be knighted) but to do little stuff when shouted at appropriately AND IT WORKS (like winchy things with the mainsail halyard, although not awfully well) is really, really satisfying. I've done a lot of electrical stuff , drilled holes (refused to do that to the hull because I don't want it to be my fault), screwed stuff on, sorted out wiring for the compass light, bilges, and navigation hardware (with help from Dave who has a brain the size of a planet but is in Thailand at present), and generally tried to earn my keep.

This is not a gin-palace (the shower still doesn't work awfully well, but we're getting a new pump tomorrow, and we have a loo now), but roomier than it looks, and pretty comfortable really. I mean, I'm sitting in the saloon at 9pm,writing this on my laptop while connected to the rest of the world via wifi (dunno where from but it's there) with a bottle of a rather nice Chilean Carmenere in front of me, with
Saint-Saens VERY LOUD on the stereo.

Stuart has tried to persuade me to sail to St.Lucia (or it may be Venezuela, he probably doesn't know either) on her with him (there's a safe place for the bike here in Port Aransas) but that would be a bit complicated as I only have one page left in my passport - the one I got in Santiago after the robbery - and need a new one before I go anywhere with big entry/exit stamps. Anyway, we'd probably kill each other before we got there.

So, with a bit of luck my new magic hole card will arrive tomorrow (thanks, Pauline), then all I have to do is make sure the strained muscle in my left arm is up to it (no idea what I did to it, but there you are), and I can head for New Mexico and Area 51 and all that stuff.

Ah, the beltsander racing. Totally bonkers. Great fun. Try http://www.gotothegaff.com

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 04:23 AM GMT
November 16, 2006 GMT
Snail Trails

This island, Mustang Island, is host to just two Brits, myself and Stuart. There is only one town - Port Aransas, population 3370 - which is quite possibly the friendliest place on the planet.

The locals are also rather amused that we're both patrons of the Port Medical Center. Stuart had a buried splinter of steel in his foot and had to have it dug out (I tried and failed, but in my defence my concentration was affected by the screaming), and yesterday morning I finally gave up on my hurty bits and went to see what they thought was wrong with my left arm and shoulder, which have been rather painful for around 10 days.

I explained the symptoms and was examined thoroughly by the nice Dr. Novotny (family originated in Bohemia in the Czech Republic), then X-rayed. He thinks the bash on my shoulder when I fell off near Austin started things off, then I annoyed it further by heaving on stuff on the boat. The joint looks sort of wrong and there's a lot of inflammation. So the arm's in a sling for a few days and I have industrial-strength anti-inflammatories and painkillers.

Trouble is, the X-rays showed some strange stuff in the humerus, so they've been sent to a radiologist for an opinion. There's a sort of jumble of snail-trail marks, as though someone's gone berserk with an etching tool. Very strange. So apart from not being able to ride I have to hang around for a few days for the opinion and a diagnosis.

Interestingly, the doc seemed to have no problem with my diet regime (in common with Francisco in Coyhaique), and my soon-to-be-patented method of combined pain relief and physio for damaged shoulders - you remember, pulling the cork, lifting the bottle, pouring the Merlot/Cabernet/Malbec (und so weiter). He reckoned if it works for me it works for him.

I've moved off the boat for now, into a very nice motel round the corner, so I can walk to the boat and to Shorty's. The decorator comes in on Friday, anyway; nice Aussie lady called Reba, who's going to do out the heads and other bits and pieces, so it'll be full of dust and fairly uninhabitable.

We still need to install the new chartplotter, and small-worldery has kicked in. The Raymarine kit we've bought has not-very-good manuals, as you probably gathered, and one of the chaps on this list is Steve Hart with whom I worked at Sun. He's now contracting, and working for Raymarine, so can do some decoding for us if we get totally stuck. It's all to do with interfacing the Chartplotter, the Garmin GPS and a laptop, together with other gizmos, so isn't exactly straightforward.
Gosh it's fun.

You'll never have heard of Port Aransas, I'm sure, but I could definitely live here. Everyone is immediately friendly and helpful (much like most of the world, really), and it's so small everyone knows everyone else, and who we are, and where to go for stuff and who to see for things. The ferry is lovely, and right next to the marina; it comes over from Aransas Pass (it's only about a hundred yards across the water) incessantly, and is free. Yesterday an ambulance appeared and as it approached the ferry the few cars which had driven on were hurriedly reversed off, the ambulance drove on, and the ferry left almost instantly. You only have to wait about five minutes for the next ferry anyway.

By the way, thanks for the birthday wishes - 52 today and a bit if a do tonight at Shorty's.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 09:57 PM GMT
November 22, 2006 GMT
Slings

Both the the boat and I have been slung.
(Photos are HERE).

Stuart motored to the boatyard at Aransas Pass yesterday, manoeuvred it into the dock, the slings went underneath her and she's now out of the water. So we've removed the daggerboard and steering gear for repair, Reba is filling, sanding and decorating, and we're getting on with some other stuff. It's very strange being on a boat six feet above dry land.

Internet access is a bit problematical here - there are no internet caffs as everyone has a computer, so I have to go down the road and find a wifi signal. Luckily there are plenty but they're often rather weak. Corpus Christi is installing a city-wide wifi network for everyone to use - how cool is that?

Shorty's isn't a liquor bar; they only sell beer and wine, but you can take your own firewater and buy mixers to go with it. I had a great birthday party there, and now have even more T-shirts to send home, including a Shorty's one signed by all the regulars.

Anyway, thought I should tell you this: it appears there's a bit of a problem with my left humerus. The radiologist has tentatively diagnosed an extensive infarct, which is a blockage of the blood vessels in the bone, and which is causing necrosis. I have to have a CT scan (in Corpus Christi) which can't happen until Monday or Tuesday because of Thanksgiving. I have not the foggiest idea of the implications except that it's a potential showstopper. I mean, dead bone can't be resuscitated, can it? The doc is great and admits he's never seen this before and isn't sure of any possible prognosis other than it's non-trivial. I'll just have to wait and see. And at least I'm not in Porvenir.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 10:00 PM GMT
November 30, 2006 GMT
People

George said yesterday that my head looks like a campfire that's gone out. I rather liked that.

George is a friend of Pelican John, and they're constructing the nets between the bowsprit and the outriggers, complete with the Caribbean Dunny. This is a hole at one corner, Crew, For The Use Of. Oh, just use your imagination, OK?

Pelican John came round on Sunday evening with his guitar and entertained us all. He's very good. Stuart will be providing a video, which is definitely worth watching and listening to.

Jim and I had a long chat last week about bikes. He's an HD rider, of course (large, black leather, fringes, all that), but had no problem with me and The Old Dear. Jolly nice chap

Miss Rose is 80 and owns Shorty's. On Saturday night there was a street dance, and she arrived on the back of Jim's Harley, which was decked with red, white and blue ribbons.

On Sunday afternoon one of Jim's friends went round to see him and found him dead in his chair. There'll be one hell of a wake.

Jim is the manager of West Marine, where we're buying most of the kit for the boat. Another lovely guy, and as we see each other almost every morning he reckons I should just move in. It's only 20 miles from here (all the way to Corpus Christi), and I love driving the F150 pickup - Stuart rented it because he's gone native, and both of us are fully-paid-up rednecks now, and anyway we need it to cart stuff around.

Jeff is a magician. He knows all about boats, climbs up masts a lot, and has gorgeous legs. His invariable response to anything is "O-key-dokey."

And there's Janie our lovely landlady, Dennis (the Menace) at the marina, Steven the nice young doctor, Tessa the Mad Aussie and her husband Jim, Reba the boatcleaner, Jesse the odd-job man with the ulcer . . .

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 10:04 PM GMT
 



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